I’ve had some moments in my life where tears seemed to be more plentiful than joys. My grandmother often admonished me to let the tears flow, because they cleansed the soul. She was right, generally speaking. After a good cry, I usually feel better and my heart feels lighter.
Sometimes, though, sorrow and grief are so profound that “having a good cry” isn’t enough. Sometimes the burdens are so heavy they weigh us down our entire life and taint our view of everything. Leah carried that kind of heavy sorrow. Her life was tainted with a weariness that was brought about by the constant feeling of never being good enough.
Upon waking up the morning after her night in Jacob’s tent, Jacob did not turn over and gaze lovingly at his new bride. He looked at her and immediately became angry. He’d been tricked, and despite how it might make Leah feel, Jacob immediately addressed his grievance with Laban. Leah was left sitting, alone, in the tent of her new husband, knowing that the reason she was alone was because her husband did not want her.
Most new brides enjoy the bliss of the first year, waking up with a husband that looks adoringly at them, despite bed head. They are blessed with random kisses and tokens of affection, and bask in the glow of that newly married romance.
Leah got a week, during which her husband moped about being tricked into marrying her, and then culminated in her new husband taking on another bride – her sister. Leah was left in the dust of the whirlwind romance between her husband and the woman he really loved. Leah wasn’t even blessed as the primary wife – although custom dictated she be given that role. From the morning after, until her death, Leah lived knowing that she was insufficient.
Psalm 56:8 indicates that God takes record of our tears. He is a gentle and loving God who takes note when his children hurt. Leah was no exception. God, always merciful, took note of Leah’s pain and opened her womb, giving her the gift of fertility while Rachel remained barren.
Children were a blessing, and a fertile wife was deemed honored. So, with each child, especially since the beloved wife was barren, Leah hoped that Jacob would finally see her worth. Her first-born was named Reuben, meaning “see, a son!” Leah, with joy, looked on her son and then looked to Jacob saying, “Now therefore my husband will love me.” (Gen 29:32). Jacob did not. So, as she sat alone in the bridal tent, she found herself sitting alone with her infant son, emotions of joy bittered by the deep sorrow of, yet again, being inadequate, insufficient.
With each pregnancy and new birth, Leah repeated the pattern of joy, rejection and sorrow. With Simeon’s (meaning “heard”) birth, she declared “Simeon, because the Lord has heard I am hated.” With the birth of Levi (meaning, “attached”), Leah hoped that “now my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”
Something changed within Leah, though, upon the birth of her fourth son. Leah finally realized that her worth in the eyes of her God was much greater than in the eyes of her husband. Jacob may have hated Leah, rejected her and deemed her unworthy, but God most certainly did not. He’d blessed her with four beloved sons, and as a result of her realization of worth and adequacy in God’s eyes, Leah named son #4 Judah, meaning “Praise.” As Judah took his first hearty cries, Leah declared joyfully, “Now I will praise the Lord.”
Unworthiness is a ponderous, stifling burden. To strive daily to exceed the expectations of those you’d hope would love you, only to be rejected and despised by them, bends the back and breaks the spirit.
To realize, suddenly, that your worth is not based on any one person’s opinion, but that it is solely in the hands of your Creator – To grasp that the God who created the stars collects your tears in a bottle because he loves you just that much – is freedom unlike any other. Leah turned her tender eyes upon the Lord, the God of her salvation, and the burden of being insufficient was immediately lifted. Her eyes were now tender toward the grace of Jehovah. Her validation came from Him and Him alone.
The rest of the story gives no indication that her attitude of joy, and peace in the blessing of her Creator, ever ceased. She obtained two more sons from her handmaiden, and finally bore a daughter, who she named Dinah (“Justice”). Justice is exactly what Leah found the moment she turned her eyes upon God, and found her worth in Him.
Leah’s sons went on to be the founders of 6 of the tribes of Israel. Her son Levi is the founder of the Levite tribe, the tribe of the priests. Moses, who later delivered the Israelites from Egypt and into the promised land, was a Levite, and a descendant of Leah. Leah’s son Judah, is the father of the monarchy, from whence David, the king after God’s own heart, and later, Jesus, the Messiah, came.
When Jacob finally died, he begged that his body be carried back, not to the burial place of his beloved Rachel, but to be laid in the tomb next to Unloved Leah.
Leah was enough.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.